I remember my first Lego set. I was six and my family had just gotten back to my Aunt & Uncle’s house from the mall. I am not sure why I wanted this set so badly, but I begged, I pleaded, and now it was lying on the floor of the bedroom I was sitting in. It was a medieval boat that came with two men in helmets. I stared at it in awe. Could I build this? At six?
I worked hard on it but sure enough, I completed it. I stared at it in amazement thinking, Wow, I built this!
This teeny-tiny itty-bitty Lego set started it all. I wanted to become an Architect. I made a major life decision at the respectable age of 6.
Through the years, I challenged myself. The sets got bigger and my time to build them got shorter. I would follow the directions, quickly erect the Lego building, look at it with pure elation and then take it apart. At this point, I would build my own creations. I was, after all, a budding Architect!
As I became a teen, I shifted from Legos to hand drawings. I would draw floor plans just for fun. Soon, I developed into drawing the front elevations of houses. I received several home plan books and computer programs for my birthday and holidays. I even received a drafting table. Yes, this is definitely what I wanted to do.
In the fall of 1998, I started the 4 year Bachelor of Science in Architecture degree at the University of Maryland. I was on my way. For the next few years, I lived in the Architecture building, taking a particular interest in my Architectural History courses. I became fascinated with buildings, mainly homes, from the Colonial and Federal time periods. I graduated in May of 2002 and after a month started my career in Architecture.
But, I was far from my desire to be a licensed Architect. I kept my work records and when the time came, I began to study for the exams. 7 exams at over $200 each. I took my first exam when my daughter was 2. I anxiously waited for my results. The day finally came…
I was heartbroken. I was also in the midst of my 5th episode with Major Depressive Disorder. I decided to take a break and wait for my daughter to get a bit older. After all, the 5 year rolling clock didn’t start until you passed one of the exams.
1 year after I failed the first exam, I took a different one. I felt confident going in. I felt happy when I left. I felt defeated when the results came…
The word ‘fail’ and the fact that I am an Alpha with perfectionist tendencies, didn’t ease this situation. I decided then and there, I was done taking exams until I had the money to pay for the review courses and the exams.
Years went by. My job growth continued, although minimally. I began to really think about my career. Would being licensed make a difference? At that point, no. My pay would not increase. My responsibilities would not increase. Why spend the money? Just so I could put ‘Architect’ after my name?
A few years ago, I was struggling with my career. Where I was working was affecting my Mental Health greatly. It was not a healthy place for me anymore. So I once again thought about the question:
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Suddenly, the answer was no longer Architect. I had become increasingly interested in hiking and nature. Being outside rejuvenates my soul. Researching, I realized that maybe a career in Forestry, like becoming a Park Ranger would be for me. Lacking funds to go get a degree in it, I decided to start small and take a Certificate Course in Forest & Wildlife Conservation. Most of the material intrigued me. And then reality set in… there were very little, if any, paying positions in the Northeast, and we were not moving.
Next up in line, a Groupon became available to become a Certified Personal Trainer. I studied and miraculously passed the exam (an exam that most of its material was not covered in the books the course came with). To this day, I am still certified. To this day, I have not used it.
Why? I changed jobs. I found a job that still uses my knowledge in Architecture that I enjoy. Is it my passion?…
I feel like we stress deciding a career so early in life. Of course, I made the decision even earlier than necessary. I graduated college when I was 22, but one had to declare a major by the end of sophomore year. I look at my daughter now, and can’t even believe that in less than 10 years, she will have to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life. How can we decide so young with so little knowledge and experience on what life really is? She is already starting to decide. So far she has narrowed it down to Fashion Designer, Illustrator, and Teacher (Fashionista dropped off the list a couple of years ago). These are her current passions, but when she is my age (a few years shy of the big 4-0) will she still feel that way? I don’t.
If I could turn back time (someone send me a Time Turner from the Harry Potter world), I would change my major, knowing what I would endure in the years to come. Becoming an Architect would fade away. After suffering severely with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety and with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, advocacy is my new passion. I only want to help others to not suffer the way I have and to get better. I want others to know they are not alone. I want to be one of the many people to break down the stigma wall, block by block. If money were not an issue, I would go back to school now. I would get a degree in Mental Health Counseling. I would become a Mental Health Counselor. Since money does not grow on trees, I will do what I can, maybe one day going back to school.
For now, I am an Architectural Project Manager who advocates for Mental Health and Maternal Mental Health through my writing. And, I am content this way.